Since 2009 a number of companies, Ricardo UK Ltd, Applus+ Idiada, Tecnalia Research & Innovation, Institut für Kraftfahrzeuge Aachen (IKA), SP Technical Research Institute, Volvo Technology and Volvo Car Corporation, have been working together on a project called SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment). Simply explained it’s a road train consisting of a lead vehicle, driven by a trained driver, followed by a number of cars which monitor and follow the lead vehicle using sensors, cameras and radar taking the task of driving away from the driver.
Road trains are another step towards autonomous driving with safety being cited as one of its main advantages, its estimated that as many as 90% of motoring related collisions are due to human error and while the road train project still has a driver leading the cars SARTRE expect their system to dramatically reduce the number of such incidents.
The next round of testing will focus on fuel consumption and SARTRE expect to see at least a 20% saving, it will be interesting to see how those results are measured and the outcome.
The road train which consists of of a Volvo S60, a Volvo V60 and a Volvo XC60 all lead by a Volvo Truck was recently testing on public roads in Spain. The vehicles averaged 85 km/h maintaining a gap between each vehicle of six metres. Maybe too close for some but according to Linda Wahlström (project manager for the SARTRE project at Volvo Car Corporation) the test drivers were comfortable within a very short time.
Commenting on its public road premier Wahlström said,
We covered 200 kilometres in one day and the test turned out well. We’re really delighted. Driving among other road-users is a great milestone in our project. It was truly thrilling.
It will be interesting to see where this project goes and eventually ends up.
By Simon Manley